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Changes to carton recycling

Posted by on 27 September 2019 | Comments

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Earlier this year, the Suffolk Waste Partnership - which comprises Suffolk County Council and the district and borough councils - took the difficult decision to remove cartons and Tetra-paks from the list of materials that could be placed in household recycling bins. New industry regulations require cartons to be sorted separately from cardboard and it has been decided this is not a viable option. 

A full statement from Cllr James Mallinder, East Suffolk's cabinet member for the Environment follows:

"As a council, we are responsible for collecting household recycling bins but we are not solely responsible for deciding what can, and cannot, go into them. These decisions are made alongside the company responsible for processing recycled materials in Suffolk and it is always a balance between maximising what can be collected through household recycling bins and the facilities available for processing certain material streams. Recycling rules apply to every household in the county, not just in East Suffolk.

Recyclable waste collected from household bins goes to the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) at Great Blakenham, which processes all of the county’s recyclables. The MRF is currently undergoing a £15m refurbishment, which began in May. When complete, the MRF will contain state-of-the-art mechanical and optical sorting equipment and will be able to process larger quantities of recyclable waste more quickly.

Prior to May 2019, cartons were recycled alongside general cardboard at the MRF, meaning they were acceptable in household recycling bins. However, new industry regulations now prohibit this and require cartons to be sorted separately. Although cartons account for less than 1% of the material delivered to the MRF, due to their composition, separately sorting them is no longer a viable option.

The Suffolk Waste Partnership (SWP), which comprises all councils in Suffolk, therefore took the difficult decision earlier this year to remove cartons from the list of materials that could be placed in the household recycling bin. However cartons can still be recycled by taking them to any of the 11 Recycling Centres in Suffolk.

This is not a decision made solely by East Suffolk Council, or which only affects East Suffolk residents. We have recently declared a climate emergency and know that recycling, as well as reducing the amount we buy and reusing items where possible, reduces carbon emissions, saves energy and helps protect our planet. As a council, we are working to reduce our own carbon emissions and want to help our residents to take positive action wherever they can.

We appreciate their frustrations at not being able to recycle more through their household bins however there are many items which can be recycled at the Recycling Centre or through local Terracycle schemes and we would urge residents to investigate these. If our residents feel unable to do this, then we would encourage them to consider buying products in alternative packaging.

Cartons are actually one of the hardest items to recycle as they contain both cardboard and plastic. Although the cartons display a recyclable symbol, the producers of these items are choosing to use materials which are difficult to recycle and the Government is working with these producers to make changes."

More details about what can and cannot be recycled in your household recycling bins can be found here: https://www.eastsuffolk.gov.uk/features/recycling-in-suffolk/